Marsy’s Law May Prevent Law Enforcement From Releasing Information

When we report on a crime, we try to give you as much information as possible. Sometimes that can be harder to do because law enforcement in South Dakota can’t release certain details. Many times, it’s up to South Dakota law. And now a new Constitutional Amendment on the books could change the way we deliver news.

Constitutional Amendment S or Marsy’s Law, passed by voters in November, is aimed at protecting a victim’s privacy.

Sioux Falls Police Officer Sam Clemens said, “The thing that we always try to do is protect our victims. We don’t want to have their names dragged out and have to go through this incident again, whatever type of crime they may dealing with.”

But the Sioux Falls Police Department also prides itself on being open to the public. They even post a 30-day police log on their website, so the public can look up incidents that have occurred in their neighborhood. And the law could change the information they’re able to release.

“We don’t want to have to necessarily pull back the information that we’re giving to the public. I think we’ve had a pretty good track record of providing information to the public and letting them know what’s going on with the police department, the crime in their community, so we need to try to find that balance,” said Clemens.

Everyday the media also receives a call log from the Sioux Falls Police Department. On the log, is the type of incident that police were called to, the date, time, and the address where the incident took place. Because of Marsy’s Law, it’s the location on the log that could go away or become more vague. Police may only release the block number instead of the actual address.

Clemens said, “By providing an address of where a crime is reported, it’s certainly a real easy connection for people to figure out who the victims is and where they live.”

For example, when we’re reporting a story on a crime and we didn’t know where exactly it took place we look to police for answers. However, now instead of showing you the home where the incident occurred, we could only give you video of the neighborhood. You wouldn’t know if the crime happened right next door or down the block.

“Maybe there’s some things we could do differently but we’re still trying to evaluate those and figure out what’s the best way of going about this,” Clemens said.

But until the law gets ironed out, another agency isn’t taking any chances. If you try to buy a traffic report from the Department of Public Safety, you will see a message regarding Marsy’s Law and how the service has been suspended until further notice.

Just like in the news industry, police say often times they have to weigh what’s relevant to how it will hurt the victims.

Police say they’ll likely be looking to the city attorney, state’s attorney or even the South Dakota Attorney General for direction.